Scholar’s Review #49: Rifts Merc Ops
Updated: Jan 21
Author: Pat Nowak, Carmen Bellaire and Kevin Siembieda
Release Date: May 2005
Closing the door on a niche issue, this book provides GMs and players alike a shadowy organization that handles the business end of the issuing and payment for bounties, as well as a host of other contractual issues that any PC group of mercenaries would need. These business folks (make no mistake, this is a business enterprise) secure the funds for any job in escrow on behalf of the contracting party, paying out the contract upon completion (with a slice retained for their “time and efforts” on your behalf). A large portion of this book is also devoted to a series of weapons manufacturers, most of which would be sure fire bets as a manufacturer of choice for many a player character’s gear, equipment, and their arsenal. This is one of the few books in Rifts that deals with the economic side of adventuring, which is not to say it’s an MBA thesis on how to run a business. It gives the GM and players a quick and easy context to justify the handling of the credits being offered for completion of a bounty or mercenary task.
Merc Ops. An overview of the process a contracting authority might have to follow in order to secure the funds and entice prospective parties to complete a job, as well as how the different bounties and commissions work. There is a portion on your common bounties, crimes and punishments, giving a GM the rationale for the price tags that may be incurred due to a bounty or crime, as well as what to reasonably offer PCs. As an extension, a crafty GM could always use this as a guide on what a bounty on the PC group could be, which could make for an interesting campaign twist, LOL.
Mercenary Operations. What I would consider the meat-and-potatoes portion of the book, as well as the primary reason for getting it. After a brief article on Code of Conduct and the Business of War, we get into the various Mercenary Missions. Each has various sub-points and there is absolutely no shortage of adventure ideas presented, or hooks any GM can exploit. Combined with the information found in the Rifts Adventure Guide, you have a *very solid* foundation for adventuring across North America. The various missions are broken down by the following categories:
Police Operations. Explains what it mean to be hired on for police operations.
Muscle/Hired Gun. Five (5) detailed missions.
Military Special Ops. Almost thirty (30) various operations to choose from.
Search and Rescue Ops. Ten (10) various operations.
Tolkeen Merc Ops. A dozen (12) missions and some explanations for what it means to be hired in support of the Coalition States.
Tolkeen Jobs. Fifteen (15) various missions in support of Tolkeen.
Merc Ops Top Ten Most Wanted. Just like it says on the box, a list of ten NPCs that could be the source of an adventure or a campaign in and of itself. Each entry provides details on the bounty presented (payout values for either dead or alive), as well as the history leading to the issuance of the bounty. A nice twist, the Fugitive’s version is presented, and a GM Section with the “True Story,” including NPC stats, followed by several much appreciated adventure ideas in the familiar Hook, Line & Sinker formats. As interesting as some of these are, I get the impression they were more interested in having the Top 10 come from a cross-section of commissioning nation states in North America.
Gunther Black (Commission: New Lazlo - Dead or Alive). Wanted for Murder of the Mayor of New Lazlo and several his staff. As presented, a bit of a hard sell as a viable campaign, and certainly not a target for anything but a high-level group.
Carl Dansinger (Commission: Free Quebec - Dead or Alive). Wanted for Striking a Superior Officer and 13 counts of murder; somewhat oddly/ironically, the murders are listed as second charges. The victim of an experimental MOM conversion gone wrong, there is a real tragedy to this story.
Frederick Hollingsworth (Commission: Stormspire - Alive only). Multiple (30+) counts of murder, rape, and kidnapping. Another story of a conversion process gone wrong (Dragon Juicer), but not due to experimental processes/equipment; this guy is just plum insane with an interesting take on his personality disorder.
Dr. Daniel Simmons (Commission: Kingsdale - Dead or Alive). Criminal surgical malpractice, organ trafficking and illegal Chop-Shop operations. As presented, another one that is a bit of a hard sell for a GM to adapt, requiring more of an investigative approach to the adventure that may not fit with some player groups, but very interesting nonetheless.
Martin Cotswoller (Commission: Northern Gun, Ishpeming - Dead or Alive). Four counts of murder and 12 counts of industrial espionage. An interesting back story, and in a clever twist, the PCs will likely be faced with certain ethical dilemmas to work through, in addition to the adventure ideas. A personal favourite from the list.
Kindra & Catrina Maxwell (Commission: The Black Market - Dead or Alive). Theft and assassination of Black Market operatives. Twin sisters with a series of secrets they would kill to protect, and a particularly juicy stolen data file they are eager to sell (no secret exhaust ports in these plans, sorry).
Quinn ‘Qualja (Commission: Three Lords of Dwoemer - Dead or Alive). Mass murderer of 63 Tolkeen refugees. Originally from the Federation of Magic, was one of the few sent to Tolkeen to "bolster" their defences, and maybe spy a little on the side. Another member of the Top 10 with significant mental issues.
“Quick Draw” Jeremiah, aka Butch Cassidy (Commission: Sundance of Pecos Empire - Dead or Alive). Personal bounty, for impersonation of the “real Butch Cassidy.” This can easily be used as a major score for the PC group, and a doorway to a series of adventures in the New West/Pecos.
Krane T’Zaka (Commission: Colorado Baronies - Alive only). For hijacking a shipment of TW weapons bound for Tolkeen. There is some real cat-and-mouse play available here, as well as the MacGuffin of the hoarded TW weaponry. Can the PCs find the villain and/or the stash of *VERY* (and by very, I mean frickin' retire fat and happy very) profitable TW gear?
The “Blue Dragoons” Merce Squad (Commission: CS El Dorado and Lone Star - Alive only). Wanted for numerous raids into and against CS holdings and patrols. An interesting entry, in that the crew of a souped up Naruni heavy tank has *really* pissed off the CS; so much so they are almost too hot to hire. As presented, a bit of a hard sell as a viable campaign, and certainly not a target for anything but a high-level group.
Power Armour and Vehicles
Chipwell Armaments. Specializing in low-end robotics, apparently business is booming! With the significant threat and hair-trigger approach of the Coalition States, both during and shortly after the Siege on Tolkeen, supply and demand seems to be working in Chipwell’s favour. Presents a couple of ‘power armour’ suits and some notes about Chipwell body armour.
Northern Gun. A number of robot/power armour and vehicle entries.
Titan Robotics. A heavy robot and a lighter robot.
Tech Weapons & Gear
Northern Gun. A slew of body armour and weapon entries.
Wellington Industries. A slew of weapon entries.
Wilk’s Laser Industries. A slew of weapons, optic systems and communications devices entries.
Miscellaneous Equipment. Almost twenty pages of various entries: specialized clothing and armour, chemicals/performance drugs, construction equipment, EOD supplies, field rations, diving gear, field/camping equipment, medical equipment, the list goes on.
Golden Age Weaponsmiths. About another twenty pages of weapons and modern (read: current as of today) US military vehicles and aircraft converted to MDC. We find everything from pistols, to howitzers, to M1A3 Abrams tanks, and several fixed/rotary wing aircraft, like the GAW-130 Hercules.
Armstrong TW Armaments. Based in New Lazlo, purveyors of fine TW weapons. Most have interesting secondary effects besides the pure MD inflicted.
Magefire Weaponry. Yet another TW armaments company. Owners are trans-dimensional traders and ensure their weapons have an ‘alien’ feel, eschewing normal ‘human looking’ weapons. In addition to some great art, backed up by some great stats. That TW EMP cannon though, yeeesh….. Also includes several suits of TW power armour.
Initial Review (8/10). Something of a niche book, it likely provides a GM more value than a player (a counter-argument could be made given the copious armament and armour entries). The information on the methods of developing a bounty/mercenary task and having a shadowy third party handling the minutia of the business side of things certainly helps alleviate some of the possible issues a GM may face. The Top 10 Most Wanted provides a few solid adventure ideas, though a few of them I would breeze right passed unless you had a PC group with a particular bent on investigative adventures, or are high enough level to tackle the NPC in question. After that, we get back to the Rifts World Book stand-by, copious entries of weapons and armaments from various producers, as well as significant page space devoted to more specialized gear (communications, optics, surveillance, etc). Of note, there are no new OCCs; a refreshing change. The artwork is varied throughout, supporting the whole well enough. Of particular preference are the Michael Dubisch illustrations for the Magefire weapons. Listed on the Palladium Books site as a Sourcebook, this entry really does pack a punch for the page count, something most gaming groups will appreciate having in their collection.
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